On September 14, 2015, WyoPoets President Myra Peak presented an Award for Excellence to AMBI for providing mailing and printing services to WyoPoets for more than 10 years and for assisting WyoPoets to serve its members and the public as it has distributed the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ newsletter, Strophes, and the WyoPoets’ Newsletter to members of WyoPoets.
"AMBI’s business relationships and efficient service have allowed WyoPoets to meet our mission of furthering poetry in our lives," the award stated.
National Federation for State Poetry Societies Contest results are out at:
Congratulations to the following members:
Mary Jo MaGuire – 6HM Contest #4
Christine Valentine – 6HM Contest #22
Gail Denham – 1HM Contest #32
For all the activities by the organization and our members, here's a little recognition from the NFSPS.
At the spring workshop in Casper on April 18, WyoPoets President Myra Peak honored four members with Awards for Excellence.
To Arthur Elser:
For serving as treasurer to WyoPoets, for piloting WyoPoets with skill and grace, for his diligent writing and reading of poetry, for supporting other poets, and for his published poems and recognition by the Colorado Authors’ League with his book, We Leave the Safety of the Sea.
Arthur Elser’s steadfast attention to the business of WyoPoets, his poetry, and his kind patience in support of fellow poets leaves us all safer for knowing him. WyoPoets celebrates Arthur Elser as he enjoys new poetry pursuits.
To Susan Vittitow Mark:
For serving as workshop chair for WyoPoets, for maintaining and creating new features on the WyoPoets’ Web site and her partnered blog, for her excellence in poetry writing, and for supporting other poets.
Susan Vittitow Mark’s ability to deliver encouraging and insightful words to poets, to pursue poetry writing no matter the stakes, and to efficiently support of fellow poets allows us to be grateful for poets like her who know what we need.
To Echo Klaproth
For serving as Wyoming’s Poet Laureate and bringing recognition and honor to WyoPoets, for writing and publishing poetry in written and audio forms, for being a mentor to school children throughout the state, and for serving as editor of the WyoPoets’ newsletter thereby reflecting our members’ work.
Echo Klaproth’s passion for communicating poetry in so many forms to people of all ages has strengthened the attention of the public to the many voices of poetry. Her service as Wyoming’s Poet Laureate and WyoPoets’ newsletter editor elevates the value of poetry in the United States.
To Nancy Ruskowsky:
For her many years of service to WyoPoets with workshops, chapbooks, and as chair of the Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest. Her ability to organize events has allowed WyoPoets to meet its mission and encouraged its members to advance individual goals.
Nancy Ruskowsky’s enthusiasm with contributing to the business of poetry and WyoPoets, her poetry writing and reading, and her sense of image, message, and song allows her to craft, edit, and reach out to others as she shares her time and her poetry.
Aaron E. Holst has served in many capacities with both WyoPoets and Wyoming Writers, Inc. Most recently with WyoPoets he serves on the WyoPoets’ Members Only Poetry Contest Committee, which just closed for submissions on February 28. Aaron has been published and won awards for his poetry, a point he seems to have excluded from his personal summary below. Although Aaron has a tendency to be quiet (at least at events where I see him), his poetry speaks volumes about his personal daily and lifelong journeys -- a goal all poets hope to achieve.
I write, first and foremost, because doing so pleases me. I read poetry and prose because I want to know what others have to say.
Several significant events have encouraged my writing. First was being born, but I don't remember much other than it was really bright and cold. Later, I learned to fish from my father who encouraged reading about the natural world -- especially those verses written about water, the seasons, and aquatic life. Spending time in the classrooms of Dr. Virginia Wright (8th English) and Mr. Richard Adler (sophomore English and creative writing at Sheridan High) certainly aided with my writing. When I was a high school junior, my girlfriend's father gave me his 1942 edition of A Treasury of Great Poems, English and American. The dust cover's long gone, but the poetry remains strong. More recently, when my retirement began, I fell in with Sheridan's Third Thursday Poets and WyoPoets. How fortuitous! (I must add for both him and Wyopoets.)
What inspires me: Shakespeare, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, and Mary Oliver. Waking up each morning. Poetry, good and bad. Mountains. The seasons and the seas. Anything that charges my senses. Love. Third Thursdays. Good friends.
My writing ritual usually begins with a 6:30 a.m. cup of coffee to wake up. I wear a ball cap that comes from a city with a zoo (San Diego Zoo) – my reminder to stay crazy. (Can anyone name the zoos in Wyoming?) I write first drafts longhand in the morning with a cushioned cylinder gel pen and use an 8 1/2” by 11” yellow-page writing pad. Review of drafts and revisions occur typically in the afternoon and includes using voice recognition software to create an electronic file, which offers the opportunity to read and hear my work. Although longhand creates, I use the computer to revise and finalize. I live by cut and paste -- my only artsy-craftsy skills.
I particularly like the breadth of any form and any subject. My rebellious streak against rules and authority are still strong. When a form intrigues me, I will play with it until I wear it out. My current obsession, for example, is the following poem, a Parallelogram de Crystalline. These are four three-line stanzas with a syllabication scheme of 3-6-9. The following, however, is not true to the usual subject of a P de C, a poem about one's lover compared to nature.
overhead, night is day.
Cold shadows cannot wait to listen.
this moonstruck dark, dresses
thawing ground with hush of wet, spring snow.
impatient buds murmur
invented verses – midnight reading.
eyes closed, I hear the words,
my own inventions whispered to life.
On the other hand, rhyme and meter show up for the light-hearted and humorous.
I Bought a Brand New Smart Phone
I bought a brand new smart phone,
Its color Apple-gray.
I lent it to my girlfriend,
She had it just one day.
She texted and tweeted,
used up all my hours.
I'll lend her not my smart phone, now,
She thinks my time is “ours.”
Nancy Heyl Ruskowsky lives near Cody, Wyoming. As you can see below, she has considered herself a poet for much of her life. Nancy has served in many roles in WyoPoets . Currently, she is the chair of the Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest for us, deadline for entries is December 1, 2014. She brings a love of others’ poetry and the effort of knowing what it takes to produce poetry.
There are just some stories or images that won’t allow themselves to spread all over the paper like a big oil spill. Instead they demand a shape, crafted tightly no matter how much I just want to sprawl. Like elastic bands that I attempt to stretch across a space too wide, when let go they snap into the poems they are intended to be. That’s what poetry is for me, and I don’t find it easy, no matter the type.
Ever since being introduced to haiku I wake, aim for the back porch, catching a cup of coffee on the way, and hoping to find that short little muse of the day: in the sky, maybe beyond the bunkhouse, or perched on a branch of one of the pines just outside my kitchen window. Often they are hidden until later in the day when deep in dish water at the sink, a robin in that very tree, bombs a feather mid-flight snatching it back into the nest building. Where’s my pen? Sometimes the perfect syllable doesn’t arrive for days, maybe it comes to me waiting in the grocery line.
For me poetry starts with an image, a message, a series of words that sing, then comes the crafting, next the editing: first with self, then reaching out to others.
Finally it comes to encouraging, using my experiences to draw out others. That’s the reason for the WyoPoets-sponsored “Eugene V. Shea” National Poetry contest and my participation for three years now as its director. Hundreds of poems come my way, the mailbox a funnel from me to a gifted and generous judge. Imagine the trust of poets sharing their talented artistry and painstaking work with me, a stranger. I remember names from year to year, watch a first year effort ignored, then honored in new words and knowledge several years later. Contests are challenges to complete the work, confidence to enter it there and finally the will to tackle another no matter the contest judge’s results.
I have been part of the writing world since telling my first story in a one-room country school in eastern South Dakota. Life brought me to a new state, and WyoPoets has been my continuing education since its inception, along with being a member of Wyoming Writers nearly from the beginning. I have so many poets who have shaped my ideas about what poetry really is, too many to thank, but they all live in every word I put to paper. Blessings from those friendships abound.
Elegy for a Country Cemetery
A crow circles tightly,
iridescent wing feathers flashing
sweeps toward me,
as I climb through an opening in the wire.
Then on an updraft he clears centuries-old white pine,
antique clay pots house dandelion clusters;
veers down to follow sagging fences
that isolate graveyard
from croplands beyond.
I slip back in time where
wind-tossed plastic vases
bench themselves among plots;
monuments honor pioneer families,
cast long shadows on shallow markers.
I wander from stone to stone,
trace etched names upon my fingers;
remember aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends.
Ludwig, Anderson, Figbom, Heyl-
names that rolled in favorite stores from my father’s lips.
While faces of neighbors blur,
their horses I remember launched
my language in the roll of their names
across my tottering tongue,
as one of those gathered
would swing me up top
the harnessed beast,
then turn to discuss
weather, hog prices, dreams.
Beyond woven wire
I see my church through a broader gate,
in a patch of cheat grass,
though burned to the ground in ’58.
I climb hand-planted rock steps,
kneel at the altar,
path fades to sod. Here, in shadow of farmer’s field
hear my mother’s eulogy,
feel my father’s sorrow
through a callused hand
clinging tightly to my own.
I find myself at the far end
of the cemetery, beyond where
amid music of corn growing,
lies a tiny stone with two names,
inviting me to kneel again,
just beyond reach of my sister
buried in my mother’s arms.
Warped by age and element,
the ornate iron gate
rails against my efforts to re-lock its raspy latch.
welded metal joints groan,
rust-tinged paint flakes
float down like cotton seed
to cloak the overgrown path below.
Nancy Heyl Ruskowsky
Cornelius F. Kelly of Pinedale is this month’s Featured Member. Not only do I like his poetry; I like his prose. Cork’s poetry is ubiquitous in his prose as evidenced by his submission. His poetry has appeared in publications for a wide range of audiences. October 15 was National Poetry Day. The omnipresence of his poetry throughout so many aspects of his life and so many years of his life shows me every day is poetry day for him. We are the winners as he shares his current and past writing life with us this month.
Somebody told me once that I was a poet because I write poetry. I like that idea. It does not mean the poetry I write is good or bad. In my opinion, if a poem connects with a reader, it is good. If it fails to connect, it is bad. Let’s try this one to see what happens:
with rhythms and rhymes
are lovely to read aloud
in front of a gracious crowd,
but often a word can't be found
to balance the needs of the sound,
so the poet may curse
and resort to free verse.
I wrote my first poem at age 12 when I fell in love with the girl across the street and put my work in her mailbox. She showed it to all of the neighbors, and I became the poet laureate of my block. Certainly, poetry is the language of romance, and I used it much later in life to convince my sweetheart to become my bride.
I have a gentle writing schedule which forces me to write at least one new poem each month to fulfill my obligation to the round-robin group of five poets. I also contribute one poem each month to the Rendezvous Pointe Newsletter for our fantastic senior center. I have been known to enter a contest occasionally.
An early influence on my love of poetry came from Edgar A. Guest. This did not impress my college English professors. He was a Detroit, Michigan, writer who published frequently in local newspapers which I read.
There have been several highlights in my poetic career. I had written a poem in Spanish about the Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío, and had the opportunity to read it at a meeting of the Rubén Darío Cultural Society in Managua. I have published one chapbook of poetry in Spanish, a copy of which is on file at the Sublette County Library in Pinedale.
A recent highlight was being the commencement speaker for the graduating class of Whiting High School in Laramie this May with a focus on poetry.
I was honored to have my Matthew Shepard poem “I Did Not Know Him” published in the 2013 edition of the Owen Wister Review.
Another highlight was assisting Ted Kooser to use his card to gain access to his room at one of our writing conferences.
I do a prose writing every morning to my family members and other relatives in which the key news item is my glucose reading. At my age (78), health is a common topic. My poem, “Speak Diabetic” was published last summer in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) —another highlight in my career.
If you write a poem, you are a poet.
Christina Kamnikar of Cheyenne was this past year’s 1st place winner in the Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest. Her poem, “Dream Request”, opened with the line “We want a poem about your nightmares, said the dream publisher”. Writing dream scenes can be tricky, and we often wish we could choose our dreams. As poets, the best we can do is choose our words and still, like a dream and our inner emotions, the words take us where they need to be. We lose control but retain our public courage, which Christina shows us. Her attitudes about cheerleading and accepting praise are the spirit of WyoPoets.
Like many people, I wrote poetry in high school and college which was heavy on emotional therapy but sparse on word quality. Since I was writing for myself, that was fine. I kept writing off and on over the years. After entering several contests, I got discouraged and stopped showing my work to anyone -- ever. I kept writing for fun: short stories with friends, journaling, poems, anything that did not require public risks. I kept reading Neruda, Alice Walker, and anyone else I came across.
In the last several years, my mom started writing and publishing her poetry and memoirs. She was invited to speak at a poetry reading in Loveland, and I went along to cheer her on. After the session was over, I thought, "Why not share my poetry with Mom?". I sent her two of my most recent poems. She showed them to one of her friends and her writing teacher. With their encouragement, I got back into writing poetry that I'd show to other people.
So far it's been a year since I've been submitting my work for publication. I was thrilled to win last year's WyoPoets’ Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest. Most of my writing is inspired by nature or the questions I can't answer. What is that sound? Why do weird things happen the way they do? What is the point of feeling an emotion you can't understand?
I can say that being a member of WyoPoets has brought me into a writing group full of great people and into a larger community of writers. Thank you, every one of you.
The namesake of our contest, Gene, would likely say, “Keep writing -- about anything.”
what I want
is an empty world
I wake up early
I stay up late
the world is larger
while the rest of you sleep
I can drive my car faster
there are no lines
at the 24 hour stores
I can distinguish noises
without the buzz of the world
I own everything I see
with no one to contradict me
If the Rapture comes
takes everyone but me
leaves the world quiet and still
I will miss everyone
go out of my mind with lonely
but for five minutes
I will be thrilled
In March of 2014, Lynn G. Carlson of Cheyenne and Susan Vittitow Mark (also of Cheyenne) launched the Writing Wyoming, blog. (Susan is WyoPoets’ Webmaster.) Lynn attended our April workshop in Casper. My impression was that we were thrilled to have her husband, Mike, and her attend and become one of our fold. What follows shows that she approved of us, too. We are glad that Lynn has offered insights into how she came to poetry and her personal experience with the dried vegetation of the highway.
It’s been eight years since I dived into creative writing. It’s only been a year and a half since I worked up the courage to write a poem. I’ve always thought of poetry as the perfume of the writing genres, and I’m more of a toilet water kind of a gal. I was intimidated by poetry.
I took a poetry and creative nonfiction class at Laramie County Community College (with poet/professor Kristin Abraham). The class lured me in by the creative nonfiction part of it—a genre with which I’m pretty comfortable. Frankly, I was just hoping not to make a fool of myself in the poetry part of the class. What I discovered is that writing poetry is all about language and imagery, and I love both. With Kristin’s writing prompts leading the way, plenty of poems popped out, much to my relief and delight.
Not long after I finished the LCCC class, an image squirmed into my head and announced that it belonged in a poem. That poem grew and became “Generosities” which received an honorable mention in the free verse category in the recent Wyoming Writers, Inc. contest. If I stay open and flexible, the words that arrive let me know to which genre they belong. I’m thrilled to have added poetry to the list of options.
Mike, my husband, and I joined WyoPoets this spring and attended Echo Klaproth’s workshop in Casper. We found the folks there to be warm and welcoming. Incredible poetry floated around the room, too—so inspiring!
I don’t call myself a poet, fiction writer, or memoirist. I’m not much into labels. I like to think of myself as a person with a writing life. I am grateful beyond measure to have it.
Longtime WyoPoets member and Past Wyoming Poet Laureate Pat Frolander was presented with the Emmie Mygatt Award at the Wyoming Writers conference banquet June 7. The Emmie Mygatt is the organization's highest honor, given for exemplary service to the organization.
Other WyoPoets members receiving awards were Art Elser's Horizon Award for his first major publication, his poetry chapbook titled We Leave the Safety of the Sea, and Gayle Mansfield Irwin's Milestone Award
Although the award left her speechless at the conference, Pat has shared a few of her thoughts on her selection for this year's award:
"I was dumbstruck to receive Emmie Mygatt Award; no easy thing to hush me up! Wyoming Writers, Inc. is an organization of writers whom I hold in high esteem for their dedication to craft. Accepting the Emmie is tantamount to winning the Grand Prix, World Cup, Indy 500, Super Bowl, and Wimbledon all in one. It is truly an honor and privilege to be included with the many wonderful recipients of the past and by far, one of the most humbling experiences of life. Heartfelt thanks to all who have included me in their circle of fellowship."
Katie Smith nominated Pat for the Emmie Mygatt Award. The following was taken from her nomination letter:
"All members in Wyoming Writers, Inc., bring gifts to the organization, and they bring their writing careers, hoping to learn from others and grow individually. In over 40 years we’ve had many careers advance and in turn make major literary contributions. Patricia has been one of those authors making outstanding contributions to our organization and Wyoming’s writing community.
"In Pat’s membership years, she has developed a love and knowledge of writers who have gathered to make our group. She has taken time to learn what each member writes, learned about their dreams, home and family, and if they are interested in sharing their time and talent to serve Wyoming Writers as a board or committee member. In 2012 during her dual role as board president and treasurer it became apparent the organization needed a membership drive. By the time conference convened in Laramie over 60 plus new members were added to the rolls of Wyoming’s oldest writing organization. This recruiting effort was invaluable to move the organization forward. During this same year, with Pat as president, Wyoming Writers hired its first administrative assistant to design a website and newsletter to benefit the organization’s members.
"What makes Patricia Frolander so unique is that she makes every person feel special. Before this conference is over, many members of Wyoming Writers will have been greeted by her. She will have shared her riches of friendship, that she is a lover of dogs, horses, family, and a good laugh! She will offer to each person she meets in some small way a bit of her most impressive asset—her most gifted quality, her time and knowledge given freely, by doing for others from the bottom of her heart."
Congratulations Pat, Art and Gayle!
Here, WyoPoets asks its members to summarize their writing lives, poetry backgrounds and inspirations. We hope that if you are not a member you will think about joining. If you are a member, this is a chance to learn how other WyoPoets’ members get their poetry onto paper. Submissions receive only minor edits. Each poet’s voice clearly shines through. If you would like to share your poetry experiences, email Myra L. Peak for details.